Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the characters names and cannon attributes. I own the story
The pretty woman in the large hat was blocking my vision. I was mesmerized by the way her eyes crinkled as she laughed at something the man with the thick, handle bar mustache said. I watched his lips move, the hairs on his upper lip twitching as he spoke, but I could not hear the words. Two little girls with dark ringlets and Sunday hats whispered off to the side. I recognized one immediately. Her name had been Emily. She was the younger of the two, smaller with a rounder face. Her blue eyes twinkled in the sunlight. The one beside her was taller, but only just, with a sharper face and darker, flatter eyes. The little one was still talking when the older one stopped abruptly and stiffened, her eyes rolling slightly, her jaw clenched tightly. I could nearly feel the ache she must have been feeling in her teeth. The little one seemed to shake her, but I couldn't draw my eyes from the stationary one. Her fists clenched and her entire small body shuddered violently. And then she took a deep breath, looked over at the smaller one and continued her conversation as though nothing had happened.
I knew that look, the expression on her face. Not because I had seen it before, but because I had experienced it. I knew how it felt for her eyes to roll into the back of her head, for her body to shiver with the force of a vision. The girl saw things, and she didn't know how it would affect her life at that point. She didn't know the cruelty the world had in store for her. And I wanted to save her.
But first I had to save myself. The window I needed was directly in front of me. I needed to cross the corridor and I would be one pane of glass away from home free. But my feet were glued to the floor. What if a nurse saw? If I was caught I would surely be punished. I remembered what had happened to Timothy when he'd snuck from his room one night, and all he'd wanted was a drink of water. The bruises and red marks were a warning to everyone of what would happen if we left our rooms unattended. What would happen to me if I were caught escaping through a window? I didn't even want to consider the consequences.
I heard someone cough and I startled, my body convulsing in fear. I had to make a choice. Move forward, or go back. Standing in the middle of a cold corridor was only putting me at risk of being discovered. And while the window was a long way up, I knew there was a drainage pipe, concealed by climbing vines that would hopefully aid in my escape. It still sounded like a preferable plan to going back to my prison. So I steeled myself, squeezed my eyes shut, hoping for some inspiration, for a vision assuring me I would make it through, anything to make this leap of faith a little bit easier, and then I bolted. In four steps I was across the hall and in the window sill. It was an old, wooden frame window that slid from the inside. No one was allowed out alone, so the security wasn't heavy. There was only a small, metal latch keeping me from opening the window and sneaking out into the night.
I fingered the latch thoughtfully, my eyes still darting around the darkened hallway, my ears pricking, listening for any sound of someone approaching. All was quiet. The latch was less difficult than the lock on my door, but more public. I focused my attention more fully on the latch, worried that it would snap or squeak if I wasn't careful. I eased it open and it popped quietly at the last second. I breathed a sigh of relief.
It was then that I heard the soft pat-pat-shuffle of shoes on the floor. They weren't close, but they were coming nearer. Pat-pat-shuffle, pat-pat-shuffle. I tried to gauge how far away the footsteps were, but wasn't having much luck.
I could feel my heart pounding a harsh staccato behind my ribcage, uneven and racing, terrified. Being caught was not an option. I knew that, and yet I was frozen in place, the sound of approaching footsteps the only sound in my swirling head. I screwed my eyes shut, hoping, praying for one of my visions. But when I wanted one of those life altering visions, one wouldn't come. I knew from past experience that I couldn't call upon my 'ability' in a time of need, but it didn't keep me from trying once more.
The footsteps stopped. I exhaled. Perhaps the person was going into one of the rooms. I turned my attention back to the window, my hands trembling with my fear and adrenaline. I gently pried the wooden sill, old paint flaking off in my hands. The window didn't budge. I tried again, pushed harder that time, tiny, frail fingers digging into the wood. And I felt it move. A miniscule amount, but a movement all the same. I wiggled so my fingers were beneath the frame and lifted. The window rose, with a sickening, hollow squawk.
I knew what would happen next. It was only a matter of time before whoever had been walking the halls before found me crouched by the open window.
The winter wind blew harsh and raw, chilling me to the bone. It was whistling through the trees outside, but the frigid air was the least of my worries. The person with the shuffling footsteps however, was. The person had heard the squawk. The shuffling was quickly nearing my window and I didn't have much time. I leaned forward to look down and swallowed thickly. Six stories below was the brick courtyard. Cold brick with frozen ground beneath it. Nothing would break my fall. My bones were fine and brittle; I weighed no more than eighty pounds.
I imagined the bruises and welts on Timothy's arms and legs. The horrible red marks around his neck, his blackened eyes. I shuddered, not from the cold, but from the memories. The sounds of Timothy's sobs breaking through the silence late at night. His screams while he slept. He lived in the room to my left, 664.
I knelt on the window sill, tiny, fragile hands planted on either side of me, supporting most of my weight. I leaned into the cold, welcoming the sharp bite of winter snapping through my bones. Tears squeezed from the corners of my eyes as I faced the outdoors, blocking out everyone and everything around me, focusing only on the dark skies, the bright moon, the howling wind.
Knowing I had little time had my body on edge. My heart was thrumming painfully in my chest; I feared my ribs would crack with every breath taking pump. I fought to get air to my lungs, deep breaths being blocked by my overactive heart. My arms began to shake with exertion and fear and lack of oxygen. I blinked quickly, trying to clear the tears from my wind burned eyes. Quickly, panicked I began to look for a way down from the ledge. The drain pipe was too far to the left for me to grab onto with any ease. Perhaps in perfect weather, ideal lighting and a normal heartbeat I would have been able to strategically maneuver myself to the pipe, but the cold, wind and dark along with my nerves weren't letting me get a grip on a good strategy. I realized that I was stuck on the ledge with nowhere to turn.
I squeezed my eyes closed, hoping for a miracle, and when I opened them again I realized things were back in focus and I could hear voices. Shouting! Snippets of the conversations were floating in and out of my head. "Missing from her room!" "Devil's Den!" "Open window!" "Middle of January!" "Probably crazed. Call Smith."
I tensed. Dr. Smith was the late night doctor, and the one with no tolerance for disobedience. He'd stick you with a needle, give you something to make you drowsy and then have the nurses take you away. I wasn't sure what happened once you woke up, but it was Dr. Smith that was called when Timothy was found out of bed.
I heard leaden footsteps on the stairs, heavy doors being thrown open. I felt the presence of people surrounding me. I panicked, my body shook; I sensed hands reaching for me. I pushed off the windowsill, and my body sagged against empty nothingness.